Developing a Personal Brand

We live in a global world shrunk by technology! In most of the classes that I train professionals, I always emphasize that each one of them carry my “Sri’s brand” on them in their interviews for a job, performance at their career of choice, and interactions at the workplace and networking events. The reason why I emphasize so much about personal branding is the value it brings to the top much before getting selected for a job interview, a career promotion, or a specific opportunity. It is because I believe that what you do speaks so loudly that people listen to more than what you say!

For instance, long gone are the days when interviewers expected a potential candidate to have done their homework by visiting the interviewing organization’s website to discuss products or services. Interviewers can check more than what the resume tells by looking at the LinkedIn profiles of potential candidates to decide the candidate’s alignment with the organization’s culture. Similarly, interviewees can customize their responses to the interviewer’s preferences based on their research on LinkedIn. So, how much you have established yourself as an excellent marketable brand precedes the entire interviewing process!

There is a famous saying that one is the architect of one’s future. If this is true, in today’s ever-changing business landscape, one must consciously spend time in developing a personal brand. This article is an introduction to how one should develop a personal brand. 

People don’t buy goods or services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.  -Seth Godin

Image Credit: https://altmba.com/img/alumni600/sethgodin.jpg

 

Does your reputation precede you?

Lamborghini represents a high-end luxury car

Image Credit: Obtained from Pixabay

When one thinks of buying a Lamborghini, the reputation of the buyer to afford a considerable premium price precedes the purchase. No longer is a salesperson focusing on discounts but other premium products and services. 

According to the basic definitions of Marketing, a brand stands for a name, term, symbol, or feature that distinguishes a product or service an organization provides. In the eyes of the customer or competition, this branding differentiates the offering, uniquely setting itself apart from other similar or substitute products or services.

For instance, consider the Sony Corporation. The name was trendy for its consumer electronics, such as the Walkman, and known to be more popular than the other brands like General Electric. However, with the sophistication of MP3 players, smartphone industries, digital cellular technology, and Internet and cloud-based music services, who thinks of Sony in these consumer electronics today? When someone asks you for an excellent personal music listening device, would you recommend to them the Sony Walkman? 

Similarly, think of yourself as the unique product or service. In your absence, who speaks about you to get a promotion, problem-solve a client situation, investigate a technical solution as an expert, or champion a new project as a project manager? How many voices will represent you to contribute to that initiative successfully? Even if you can have a few members to speak on your behalf, what type of credibility do these people have to gain the support from others for you? 

Personal Branding is about how you position yourself in front of the essential stakeholders based on your credible performance allowing many to first think of you, then speak on your behalf, and find it easy to lobby the rest of the decision-making team to accept their proposal of you being the chosen one to be their problem-solver!

Introducing the ARM Principle

 When it comes to your personal branding, how many people think of you or acknowledge your credibility? What makes up this reputation? I call this the ARM principle that you must focus on consistently to build up the personal brand equity. The ARM principle is an acronym standing for Attention, Respect, and Money.

As a leader of a program management office, one of the things that I faced was the assignment of a project manager. In my opinion, a project manager is a change agent and much more than just a taskmaster (more on that later!). When new client work came, or a new project for an existing client came, an infrastructural project or change management initiative emerged, or a new product development began, the mix of capabilities, skills, and competencies are the characteristics I considered for identifying a project manager.

Attention: Create attention with hope

Image Credit: Taken by author

Similarly, in your absence, do you represent glimmers of hope for not only bringing success but also more opportunities in other’s eyes? What one has done beyond one’s role to demonstrate the capability to acquire a skill or apply one’s competency is the dialogue that the management or leadership evaluates! This attention aspect of the personal branding is all about how much you have continually marketed yourself on these three elements of capabilities, skills, and competencies so that you naturally stand out as the immediate choice.

Even, as a leader of the program management office, when I suggested an existing project manager to a new infrastructure project, a new client, or a project that required creative thinking to meet the objectives, other organizational leaders often weighed on the selection. If a project manager did nothing more than managing up and failed to manage their personal brand, then the attention from just the immediate manager accomplished nothing. It is like getting an interview call because you knew someone that knew the hiring manager! However, only an interview call does not guarantee an offer.

Respect: Nurture the larger environment

Image Credit: Taken by author

The personal brand value that you have built internally within the organization and externally outside the organization either attenuates or amplifies your selection. It is not only about the quality of the recommendation but also the number of qualified referees that one pays attention to in building the “respect” aspect of the personal branding. So, think about this, how many other organizational leaders outside of your current role knows you? The more you develop the network of trustworthy qualified lobbyists for you, the more your selection of candidacy commands respect.

Money motivates many individuals; often, absence and not the abundance of money is what determines many personal and professional decisions. Personally, many of us can relate to moving jobs, promotion, and career change, with the expectation that it brings increased compensation or other monetary benefits. Professionally, organizations also have limited funds for such employee development, compensation increases, and benefits. I was not an exception as well, as I had the same limited budget pool as a leader of the program management office to allocate for salary increases or career promotions. My measures were primarily based not only the outcomes (remember, I did not say output) generated regarding the immediate organizational value but also their strategic foresight in preparing their capabilities, skills, and competencies for the future.

Money: Measured on continual value offered

Image Credit: Pixabay image modified by author

While everyone looks for the organization to train them, how many of us take advantage of the funds made available by the organization for us to build for the future? You got the job because of your skills but why should your company be accountable for you to increase the skillset continuously?

The fact most of us do not realize is money is a relative measure of the value continually offered by an individual, and it is attracted to the value you build with the “attention” characteristic and the network of trust you develop as the “respect” characteristic. If you create proper attention to the value you offer and enhance your respectable personal brand, your monetary value will undoubtedly increase.

Summary

As you can see, your value regarding continuously improving your capabilities, skills, and competencies is a prerequisite for the personal branding you develop consistently. This personal branding is sine qua non for any opportunity to knock on your door. Creating attention for yourself in a respectable manner in your absence based on the monetary value you will generate for others is the foundation of the ARM principle. It takes time and effort to build these three areas.

In the next article, we will discuss how to build this personal branding value.

 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Sriram Rajagopalan

Sriram Rajagopalan

Contributing Author

Dr. Sriram Rajagopalan has more than 20 years of professional experience with exposure to multiple industries. He currently works as the Vice President of Training and Organizational Excellence at Aptus Health. Previously, he worked in the same capacity establishing the Proposition Delivery and Program Management Office. He also established a Project Office in West Notifications Group. He has delivered numerous projects for clients such as eFunds, Northwest Airlines, CVS Pharmacy, Prime Therapeutics, US Airways, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and several pharmaceutical firms, such as GSK, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Astellas, Depomed, and Boehringer-Ingelheim.

Sriram received the international prestigious Eric Jenett award on the Best of the Best Project Management Excellence award in Oct 2017 and was also a finalist for the Kerzner award for process excellence in 2012. He frequently blogs at agilesriram.blogspot.com, has published peer-reviewed scholarly international journals, articles at Scrum Alliance and PM Network on topics related to project management, agile transformation, and about the TONES© and PARAG© framework to middle management transformation through self-initiated postdoctoral work. He is also an active speaker speaking about these topics in professional conferences.

Sriram also holds several professional certifications (PgMP, PMP, PMI-CP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, CSM, CSPO, CSD, CSP, IT Project+, ACC, SCM, SCPO, SCD, SAMC, SCT, CSOXP and Six Sigma Green Belt). With extensive experience in strategic project and program delivery, he promotes the scholar practitioner approach teaching as Assistant Teaching Professor at Northeastern University and University of Riverside. He is also an active volunteer at PMI Mass Bay having served in the capacities of Director of Speaker’s Bureau, Vice President of Marketing and Communication, and as a past-board member. He also volunteers at Agile Alliance conferences and is a mentor at NAAAP.

Sriram also engages actively in training project management and agile concepts including certification preparation through his own business, Agile Training Champions (www.agiletrainingchampions.com) and also in spreading project management as a discipline to younger children in schools and colleges through his initiative on Projecting Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT) initiative (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyS_iXEH4OY)/

He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the University of Madras, India, Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Wayne State University, Michigan, MBA degree in Management from Concordia University, Wisconsin, and a doctorate degree in Organization and Management from Capella University, Minnesota.

 

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